Monthly Archives: November 2016

Wadowice and Kalvaria

As we near year end, I would like to reminisce about some of the wonderful experiences we have had this year.

Wadowice is a town about an hour away from Krakow.  It is the birthplace of  St. John Paul II.  We spent a delightful few hours there in May.  It is a lively place.


St JP II’s childhood church. His family apartment is in the building on the right, now a museum.


This is the baptismal fount he was baptised in.


Pope JP II pays a visit to Wadowice and kneels at his baptismal fount (photo on wall).


Fr. Tim Devine celebrates Mass with Fr. John Fletcher left and Fr. Albert MacPherson right.


St. JP II: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”


In the town square flagstones mark the countries and years JPII visited them.

On the way back to Krakow, we stopped at Kalvaria Zebrzydowska, a famous Franciscan Marian shrine.


Kalvaria Zebrzydowska

It was established in 1600 to provide pilgrims with a substitute of Jerusalem lost to the Muslim Turks and thus unavailable at the time. With its 42 churches and chapels of all shapes and sizes in addition to the central basilica and the Franciscan monastery, the vast complex of buildings scattered among woods on the slopes of the 527-meter-high Zar mountain grew to be the biggest such compound in Europe. Over the ages the pilgrimage to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska influenced millions of Poles. We toured the facility, had lunch and wondered up the hill where JPII used to come, exercise and pray.  


17th Century Angelic Mother of God Church


Our Lady of Kalvaria


Note the distance to Santiago de Compostela!


Pilgrim trail


Small church half way up Mt. Zar


Gorgeous chapel well worth the hike

It is hard to underestimate the cumulative affect these pilgrim sites and group experiences had on us while we were in Poland.  We felt connected to God and others in a deeper way thanks to the powerful witness of the Polish people in their humble devotion to Jesus, Mary and God.   Pope St. John Paul II’s goal was to reunite man with God and the Church.  For us, he succeeded.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

From Year of Mercy to Life of Mercy


Pope Francis yesterday called on all Christians to reject the trappings of “power or glory,” and to embrace a life that’s “free, faithful, poor in means but rich in love.”  Such a lifestyle, the pontiff suggested, would be the real legacy of his Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis closes the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica signifying the end of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy

From his earlier talks and writings on mercy:

Lord Jesus, mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.  Mercy, as regards external works, is the greatest of all virtues. It is proper to God to have mercy.  Through mercy God’s omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree. The very salvation that God offers us is itself the work of his mercy.

God’s mercy is great, forgiving us by caressing us.  The steadfast love of God never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.

Divine Savior, your invitation to mercy is intended to draw  us into a deeper imitation of God our Father: “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36).  Your gaze, O Jesus makes us feel an interior wonder, and makes us hear your beckon: Follow me.

Mercy is the bridge that connects God and the human being , opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever, despite our sinfulness.  Mercy brings us peace!

To become merciful, we mist first acknowledge that we have done many things wrong: we are sinners!  I need to know how to say: Lord, I am ashamed of what I have done in life.  With this attitude of repentance I will be more capable of being merciful, because I will feel God’s mercy upon me.

To become merciful, I need an openness to expanding my heart.  Shame and repentance expand a small , selfish heart, since they give grace for God to forgive us.   A big heart does not get entangled in other people’s lives.  It does not condemn, but forgives and forgets.

The way of mercy is the way of life.  A Christian must necessarily be merciful , because this is the center of the Gospel.  Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier, and leads us always to seek the face of the other – of the person.  And it is mercy that changes one’s heart and one’s life – that can regenerate a person and allow that person to integrate into society in a new way.

True mercy takes the person into one’s care, listens to the other attentively, approaches the situation with respect and truth, and accompanies that person on the journey of reconciliation.  Love can never be just an abstraction.  Mercy means first treating others wounds.  And mercy means neither generosity nor rigidity.  Whenever we have an opportunity to perform a work of mercy, we should rejoice as if a fountain has been let loose so that a fire might be extinguished.

And you, our Lady, through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find him in all things, may have our hearts placed in him, and may serve him always in our brothers and sisters.



(source Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion)









Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

America at War with Itself

Written by ultra-liberal American/Canadian Henry Giroux just prior to the election this year, it is a diatribe on the societal fault lines that Donald Trump has exploited to gain political power.  He cites the following trends as evidence of a disturbing turn to authoritarianism in the U.S:

  • state sanctioned violence against afro-Americans (racial profiling, police shootings, high incarceration rates)
  • state tolerated lead poisoning of 6000 children in Flint, MI due to corrosive water
  • gun lobby which resulted in 2,525 children and teens dying of gunfire in 2014
  • corruption of the U.S. media who are more interested in building advertisers revenue than doing in-depth analytical reporting
  • blaming of immigrant Muslims for terrorism and Hispanics for stealing jobs
  • increasing militarization of U.S. foreign policy instead of dialogue

Donald Trump is a demagogue authoritarian who has and will say anything to gain power.   He does not ask the electorate for a sacrifice and is unconstrained by ideology.  He is interested only in power for power’s sake and the effect that he has on people.  Very scary and dangerous indeed.

Giroux’s hope is that broad based youthful social groups such as Black Lives Matter and the Occupy Movement will lead a broad social revolution in the U.S. that will address the root causes that are leading to the fracturing of their society along ethnic, social, religious and economic lines.

And now we see the Not My President protests beginning.  Let us hope that this movement will remain peaceful and lead to real social, economic and ethnic relations progress and change in the U.S.   I and many others have our doubts and fears.

Image result for not my president

A timely read, 4 out of 5 stars.






Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion Now


From 1974-78, I was a process engineer working at the now defunct Imperial Oil Ioco refinery on Burrard Inlet near Vancouver, B.C..  In the photo below, you can see how beautiful the setting was.

Image result for ioco refinery

It was an opportunity to put my university training into practice. In those days, Ioco received light Alberta crude oil via the Trans Mountain pipeline and turned it into refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, propane, bunker oil and asphalts.

As a “contact” engineer my job was to interact with the refinery operators, monitor, report on and optimize the operations.  I was initially assigned the pollution control units of the plant that do the cleanup and then to the crude unit that did the major distillation splitting of the crude oil as it entered the plant – about 40,000 barrels a day then.

I remember peering into red-hot furnaces where the pipes containing crude oil would be glowing red, climbing towers to inspect gauges and equipment, and urging the operators to open the valve a little more to increase production.  We wore a little fabric H2S indicator that if it turned brown, meant you were being poisoned and to get out right away!  It was the best of times and the worst of times.

Image result for Ioco refiner closure

Well, Ioco refinery closed in 1995 and was converted to a products terminal.  It now receives refined petroleum products from Alberta via the Kinder Morgan (former Trans Mountain) pipeline and ships them out by barge, tanker, truck and rail, all over B.C.

Image result for kinder morgan pipeline


The Kinder Morgan company also sends unrefined heavy (oil sands) crude oil to Vancouver now for trans-shipment to foreign refiners via tanker.  They propose to expand the capacity from 300,000 barrels to about 900,000 barrels/day by twinning the line.  This is causing much consternation among indigenous and local communities along the route.  They are concerned about:

  • increased risk and environmental impact of pipeline break and spill
  • increased risk of shoreline leak at the Burnaby tanker terminal
  • increased risk of tanker leak in the Burrard Inlet, Vancouver harbour and up and down the lower Mainland coast

I tend to sympathize.  Oil sands crude is very thick and although mixed with a dilluent, would tend to make a spill extremely hard to cleanup as it would be very sticky, heavy and coating.  Going from 2 outgoing tanker loads/week to 6 or more certainly does increase the risk of an accidental spill that could damage nature and wildlife for many years to come.  Finally, the motive of Kinder Morgan is to make profits for its shareholders.  Is this a valid reason to increase the risk of such devastation to people’s livelihoods, communities and to nature?

Image result for kinder morgan burnaby tanker terminal

I say no, despite my nostaligic fondness for the industry, that pipeline and the engineers who build and maintain it.  Stop the pipeline expansion now!  And consider making your next car purchase a hybrid or electric one to reduce fossil fuel demand and reduce carbon emissions!

Express your opinion on this important decision to Prime Minister Trudeau by signing the petition to stop this pipeline expansion now.






1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized